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The ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America 2016 conference took place at McCormick Place in Chicago from October 25 to 28, offering attendees from across the continent a peek into the latest and greatest facility solutions. While at the conference, Euromonitor International observed a number of trends that are likely to have a big impact on the away-from-home tissue and hygiene market in the coming years.
Much has been made in recent years of the “smart home” movement, and rightfully so. This trend has, for the first time in human history, given people the ability to remotely monitor and control a vast array of wirelessly connected home appliances. The ISSA/INTERCLEAN North America 2016 conference, though, was a timely reminder that most of the real innovation capitalising on advances in the Internet of Things (IoT) is taking place outside of the home, across the world’s industrial and commercial facilities.
The increased visibility of “smart” restroom systems at ISSA/INTERCLEAN was the most striking example of the impact that the IoT movement is having on the away-from-home tissue and hygiene market. Swedish away-from-home tissue giant SCA Group’s booth gave pride of place to the company’s Tork EasyCube Intelligent Restroom System. In real time, the system allowed visitors to track how many rolls of toilet paper and paper towels had been used across McCormick Place’s restroom facilities, and the system displayed alerts to indicate when supplies were running low and would need to be changed out. The system also presented a headcount of the number of people who had visited the facilities. SCA touts Tork EasyCube, which was launched commercially in 2015, as being a revolution in facilities management, as the company claims that the remote monitoring of restroom supplies will allow for tremendous labour savings in any commercial space with a multitude of bathrooms – such as a skyscraper, for example. Using SCA’s system, a custodian would merely have to check a tablet (or a different connected device) to see when tissue or soap supplies were running low in any bathroom in the building. Using Tork EasyCube would also allow a facilities manager to harness the power of predictive analytics to make more informed choices about ordering supplies and scheduling staff.
Not to be outdone, Kimberly-Clark Professional – the away-from-home arm of the US-based Kimberly Clark Corp and one of SCA’s fiercest rivals in the away-from-home space – showcased its own soon-to-be-launched “smart” restroom system at conference. In a successful bid to draw traffic to its booth, Kimberly-Clark demonstrated its new system, known as Onvation, in an entertaining way by using a virtual reality headset. Onvation offers most of the same benefits as Tork EasyCube, but Kimberly-Clark’s messaging underlines how its system would be able to track not just supply usage in restrooms, but energy usage, as well.
Even if the labour savings from “smart” restroom systems like Tork EasyCube and Onvation are not as large as advertised, the convenience these systems provide means that it is a question of when, not if, they will be adopted on a large scale across the commercial and industrial sectors.
Another inescapable trend at ISSA/INTERCLEAN was the increased prevalence of wipers. To be clear, wipers are nothing new in the away-from-home tissue and hygiene space, but the expanding array of specialised wiper styles and varieties continued to impress.
The buzz around wipers at ISSA/INTERCLEAN this year focused mainly on wet wipes, and specifically on wet wipe varieties that cater to the horeca, or foodservice, market. Private label wet wipes manufacturers who exhibited at the conference, such as Diamond Wipes and WipesPlus, featured their horeca-optimised wet wipe varieties front and centre in their booths. Most of the newest offerings, such as the new Handyclean line from Diamond Wipes, were impregnated surface wipes. The emergence of these new surface wipes appeared to indicate that there is increased demand in the horeca market for wet wipes to be used in the cleaning of counters, grills, table tops, and stoves. This makes sense; manufacturers are increasingly able to customise the chemical “lotions” with which wet wipes are impregnated for use in specific applications – such as meeting foodservice health codes. Additionally, the horeca industry appears to be coming to view disposable wet wipes as a more convenient, less expensive, and – most importantly – more hygienic cleaning method than the old combination of liquid cleaning solutions and rags. Wet wipes suppliers and manufactures have long believed that horeca has been an industry with tremendous growth potential, but 2016 may go down as the year that belief and reality finally began to coincide. If the movement towards wet wipes continues, horeca may be on the verge of ditching the proverbial mop and bucket for good.